By Cha Monforte, Rural Urban News
Bukidnon Vice Governor Jose Ma. Zubiri, Jr. vowed to work to finish the Australian-assisted P19-million road project that the contractor left midway last February due to alleged extortion of the New People’s Army rebels.
Presiding the session of the Bukidnon Sangguniang Panlalawigan last Wednesday, the vice governor said that it was him who originally signed the contract for the road rehabilitation project for the Kibawe-Natulongan road network , when he was still the governor, and that the project should be finished citing that a good road for the said area could benefit a huge population of at least 15,000 villagers in seven barangays in Kibawe, Bukidnon.
During the session, the governor inquired Clarissa Rendon, provincial coordinator of the Provincial Roads Management Facility (PRMF) for Bukidnon, on why the Allado Construction, the project contractor, left and chose not to finish the project worth over P19 million with the provincial government chipping in a fund counterpart of 12 percent or over P2 million for the value-added taxes of the project. It has still a fund balance of over P10 million.
PRMF is a road rehabilitation program funded by Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID). It is a $100-million program running over five years since September 2009. Bukidnon is one of the five provinces in Mindanao where PMRF is present. The others are Agusan del Sur, Misamis Occidental, Misamis Oriental and Surigao del Norte. PRMF is also present in two provinces in Visayas (Bohol and Guimaras).
Rendon informed the provincial board that there was an allegation on extortion by NPA rebels and the contractor asked for suspension for security reasons. She added the contractor notified PRMF that there were rebel sightings near the project area.
When the contractor suspended its works last February 2012, Rendon added, it had accomplished 44.49 percent of the project’s scope.
But the vice governor belittled the contractor’s extortion reason saying that he heard that the rebels asked only “small things such as sacks of rice and canned goods.”
Zubiri said there was no burning of heavy equipment owned by the contractor.
“I suspect ginansya na siya (the contractor profited already when they left),” he said.
“I want the project finished, and we’ll get new contractor as there are responsible contractors in our province who can handle and finish this,” he told the provincial board.
Vice Gov. Zubiri, father of former Senator Migz Zubiri, appears governor-imminent after next year’s polls as he has virtually no rivals given the weak and nuisance independent rivals he has. After his third term as governor, he swapped posts with then Vice Governor Alex Calingasan in 2010 polls, and the two swapped posts again, with now Gov. Calingasan sliding down to run for vice governor for next year with weak, easily beatable rivals. - Rural Urban News/Cha Monforte